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Top Disney Genie tips and lessons learned from four theme park journalists

by Brooke Geiger McDonald

Disney Genie, the new itinerary planning tool, launched Oct. 19 at Walt Disney World and is coming soon to Disneyland. We’ve had four of our theme park journalists on the ground since launch to test Disney Genie and its paid components, Disney Genie+ ($15 plus tax) and Individual Lightning Lane attraction selection ($7-15 plus tax per attraction). Here are our top Disney Genie tips and lessons learned after testing it over a few days. If you’re brand new to Disney Genie, you’ll also want to read our Disney Genie FAQ page.

Photo by Brooke Geiger McDonald

You can build park hopping into your Lightning Lane plans

Both Genie+ Lightning Lane and Individual Lightning Lane reservations can be booked starting at 2 p.m. at a different park from the one where you started your day. In the “My Day” section of Disney Genie, you can also let Genie know what time you plan to park hop (select “Plan for Your Next Park”) in order to receive recommendations for the park hopping portion of your day.


You can’t modify Genie+ Lightning Lane reservations, but you can cancel and rebook them

If your plans change and you want to modify your Genie+ Lightning Lane reservation, you have to first cancel your existing reservation. This could mean the return time you were eyeing got snatched up by the time you’ve canceled your reservation and try to book a new one, so be sure to act quickly.


Early entry for resort guests is a serious perk 

Guests staying at a Walt Disney World resort get Early Theme Park Entry 30 minutes ahead of official park opening at all four Walt Disney World theme parks. Thirty minutes may not sound like much, but we were able to save our money and knock out both Individual Lightning Lane attractions using the standby queue on day one at Magic Kingdom (Space Mountain and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train) and on day two at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway).

While guests weren’t allowed into attraction queues until 8:30 a.m. on the dot at Magic Kingdom, at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, resort guests were able to join the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance standby queue before 8 a.m. To get the most out of your early entry, plan to arrive at least an hour and 15 minutes ahead of park opening time. 

Photo by Brooke Geiger McDonald

Individual Lightning Lane availability for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance varied on days one through three

Guests staying at Disney-owned resorts, the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, and Shades of Green, can purchase Individual Lightning Lane selections at 7 a.m. while all other guests have to wait until the parks open. On the first and second days of Genie’s launch, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance availability was replenished at 9 a.m. when Disney’s Hollywood Studios opened and all guests were able to purchase Individual Lightning Lane attraction selections, giving guests the option to choose a return window as early as at 10:05 a.m. But on the third and fourth days, additional return times weren’t added at 9 a.m., and guests could only choose a return time after 5 p.m., with all return times quickly selling out.


You can now view available dining options for most of the park in one place

One of our favorite new features in Disney Genie is the ability to view many of a park’s dining options in one screen. Under the Dining tab in the Tip Board, you can view walk-up wait times, next-available table-service reservations, and next-available mobile order arrival windows, all in one place. Note that the list seems to focus on restaurants that serve meals as opposed to just snacks and treats. For example, Aloha Isle at Magic Kingdom and Milk Stand at Disney’s Hollywood Studios are not included. 

Disney Genie will include your existing dining reservations from Disney resort restaurants and Disney Springs in your “My Day,” but doesn’t currently display resort and Disney Springs dining options in the Tip Board. 


You can book your next Genie+ Lightning Lane reservation as soon as you tap in for your current reservation

In order to maximize your time, you should make your next Genie+ Lightning Lane reservation as soon as you redeem your existing one. Some attractions have two tapstiles and you won’t be able to book your next ride until you tap twice, but it’s worth trying to book as soon as you tap the first time — we found some exceptions to this rule and not all attractions have a second tap. 


Refresh for alternate return times

If you don’t like the next-available return time Genie+ gives you for an attraction you want to ride, spend some time refreshing before you confirm your next reservation. We’ve seen a wide variety of return times pop up while refreshing — in some cases ranging all the way from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. 


Different things can happen when a ride breaks down and you have a Lightning Lane reservation

Our reporters ran into a few different scenarios with rides breaking down while we held Lightning Lane reservations. If you’ve booked a Genie+ Lightning Lane reservation and a ride has downtime while you’re in the queue and you choose to leave, you won’t be able to re-enter the Lightning Lane again later. Your Lightning Lane reservation has been considered “redeemed.” However, if Disney decides to empty the queue or the ride is down during your Lightning Lane return window before you enter the queue, you will be given the ability to return once ride operations resume at any point for the rest of the day.

A Disney World spokesperson told the Orlando Sentinel, “visitors would automatically receive a refund for individual Lightning Lane selections if a ride does not reopen for the rest of the day after a closure. If the ride reopens, but a visitor is unable to ride due to individual circumstances, they would have to contact guest relations for a refund.”

We had an Individual Lightning Lane reservation for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance when the ride was down and it did not come back up until we left the park. We were able to visit Guest Relations at another park and received a refund on a Disney gift card for our Individual Lightning Lane reservation. Just know that the refunds are not automatic.


Guest Experience Team members are positioned throughout all four parks

Having trouble with Disney Genie? Disney has added numerous Guest Experience Team stations throughout all four parks. Just look for the blue umbrella and see a blue-shirt cast member for help. 


Some Disney Genie+ AR lenses are park exclusives and others don’t work in some areas of the country

Disney Genie+ at Walt Disney World includes a variety of Disney PhotoPass Augmented Reality (AR) Lenses that let you take photos with themed effects, special backgrounds, and Disney characters, some of which are available to be used for 45 days, even after leaving Walt Disney World. However, some of the lenses are only available in designated parts of Walt Disney World property, such as the Remy lens, which must be used in Epcot, and the “Castle Nostalgia” lens, which must be used in front of Cinderella Castle. Other lenses are not available in certain areas of the country, so if you want to try them all, make sure to do so before you leave Walt Disney World property. Some lenses are also complimentary through the Snapchat app.

Many lenses use technology that detects the coordinates of key points on your face and/or hands and may be used only by guests 18 years of age and older who have consented to use of the technology. Therefore, guests unable to provide such consent, as well as guests under 18 years of age, will have fewer lenses available to use.


Pack extra battery power 

Bring an extra charger for your phone. We found ourselves spending a lot more time on our phone using Disney Genie and our batteries definitely didn’t last the day. If you’re planning to check out the short Audio Tales included with Disney Genie+, your screen has to be on to use them and that can drain your battery even more. 


If you don’t like Disney Genie’s recommendations, remove them from your Tip Board

We all found that Genie will make recommendations that you simply aren’t interested in. For example, we didn’t include Entertainment in our Disney’s Hollywood Studios preferences, but Genie suggested we go to three consecutive shows. If you don’t want to do what Genie has suggests, but still want Genie to help you optimize your day, you have the option to remove those recommendations from your Tip Board.  


You can ride Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure twice in one day without waiting in standby

Walt Disney World’s newest ride, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure at Epcot, currently uses a Virtual Queue. To ride, guests with an Epcot Park Pass reservation can attempt join the Virtual Queue at 7 a.m. or 1 p.m. or purchase an Individual Lightning Lane reservation at 7 a.m. for resort guests and at park opening for all other guests. If you want to ride Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure twice in one day, you can do so by snagging a Virtual Queue spot as well as purchasing an Individual Lightning Lane attraction selection. Our reporter tried both and waited 45 minutes in the Virtual Queue and just three minutes using the Lightning Lane. 


Slinky Dog Dash is currently the most in-demand Genie+ Lightning Lane attraction

If you’re trying to decide which to Genie+ attraction to book first, Slinky Dog Dash gets our vote. Return times are scooped up quickly at 7 a.m. and rapidly creep into the afternoon. In fact, at 7 a.m., we recommend booking Slinky Dog Dash even before booking an Individual Lightning Lane for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance if you’re planning to do both.  


If you miss your Genie+ return time, you can’t rebook that attraction later in the day

Missing your Genie+ Lightning Lane reservation makes it appear as though you’ve redeemed it and because there are no re-rides with Lightning Lane, you will not be able to book another Lightning Lane for the same attraction. If you can’t make your return time, but still want to ride, be sure to cancel and rebook before your return window expires. 


Disney advises guests to avoid relying on posted wait times when deciding whether to purchase Lightning Lane access

Disney Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane terms and conditions state the following: “Because we cannot guarantee the accuracy of these wait time estimates, you should not rely on them when making purchase decisions.” 

We timed every standby queue we waited in this week and all but one (Peter Pan’s Flight) came in under the posted wait time — some by as much as half. But it’s fairly safe to assume that if a posted wait time is more than 45 minutes, you’re probably looking at a decent wait and might want to consider Genie+ or Individual Lightning Lane if you don’t want to spend 30 minutes or more in line.

Most paid Individual Lightning Lane attractions, with the exception of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, have had Lightning Lane availability into the evening, so you could monitor wait times and make the decision whether or not to purchase later in your day (rather than first thing in the morning without knowing how busy the day will be).  

Photo by Brooke Geiger McDonald

It’s possible to ‘stack’ Lightning Lane reservations

If you like to get a late start on your day, or don’t mind doing standby in the morning and want to more heavily weight your Genie+ Lightning Lane reservations later or at your next park, it’s possible to backload your Lightning Lane reservations and even end up with multiple overlapping reservations. You can do this by booking a Lightning Lane return time that is more than two hours after park opening. If you again book another Lightning Lane more than two hours away (when you’re able to book your second Lightning Lane two hours after park opening), you can set yourself up with eligibility for two Genie+ Lightning Lane reservations at a time for the rest of the day.

As soon as you redeem the first one, you can pick a new one, even if it has been less than two hours and the other one isn’t redeemable yet. If you do this multiple times, you get more simultaneous entitlements. At the end of the night, our reporter had five overlapping Genie+ Lightning Lane return times. 

If you’re planning a full day in the park, be sure to make your first Genie+ Lightning Lane reservation at 7 a.m. for park opening, and after that, pick the Lightning Lane with the latest return time. If you do this two or three more times over the first four hours of the day, using standby for rides in the morning or just staying outside the park, you might even end up with more return times than you can even use in the afternoon. 


The return window grace period is the same as FastPass+ 

Just as you could previously with FastPass+, you’re able to tap in up to five minutes early or 15 minutes late for your return window and the light will still turn green and you’ll be let into the Lightning Lane. 

Remember, Disney Genie suggestions are just that 

Disney Genie is just a guide, it’s not perfect. Feel free to change or skip any suggestions. You don’t have to be right where they say, right when they say to be there. Relax and have a good time. Also don’t expect Genie to give you everything you want. If you tell it you like Star Wars, but you’re going to Animal Kingdom, Genie can’t give it to you. Genie also lets tell it you want to go to Oga’s Cantina, but it’s usually booked up, so Genie won’t be able to help with that either.


Are Disney Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane access worth it? It depends

There’s no doubt that ponying up for Disney Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane attraction selections will enable you to get more done in your day at Walt Disney World, but opinions are mixed among our reporters on how frequently each of us would use the service and to what extent. On a visit with my family of four, I will absolutely buy Genie+ for every day of our trip, but since we stay on property, I would probably take advantage of Early Theme Park Entry for resort guests in the morning and standby during park hopping later, and skip the extra money for Individual Lightning Lane access for top-tier attractions. But, that requires me to be out the door bright and early every day of vacation.

A late riser on our team loved the ability to spontaneously purchase an Individual Lightning Lane for Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway in the afternoon and skip the hour plus-long standby queue. Similarly, as a parent who has stood in the blazing Epcot sun queuing for Frozen Ever After with young kids more than a few times, throwing some money at the problem and walking right onto the ride sounds pretty appealing to me too.

While we love the dining display in the Tip Board, as seasoned Walt Disney World regulars, we didn’t find most of Genie’s recommendations to be helpful and often overrode them with our own choices, especially since Genie often recommended experiences that didn’t align with the preferences we plugged in each day.

We’ll keep testing and adjusting our strategies and thoughts on Disney Genie. Stay tuned to Attractions for more tips and updates and let us know your questions and thoughts in the comments!

Don’t forget to also read our continually updated Frequently Asked Questions about Disney Genie.

Seth Kubersky, Tharin White, and Matt Roseboom also contributed to this article.

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5 comments

Di$ney October 23, 2021 - 12:13 pm

Let’s go Disney.
Let’s go Disney.
Let’s go Disney.
Let’s go Disney.

Reply
Tom October 25, 2021 - 8:13 pm

Your article stated: “Remember, Disney Genie suggestions are just that. Disney Genie is just a guide, it’s not perfect. Feel free to change or skip any suggestions. You don’t have to be right where they say, right when they say to be there.”

Thanks for clearing that up! Does this also apply to food & beverage suggestions? For example, if Genie+ suggests, “Hey Rebel, if the force is low with you, recharge with blue drinks in Galaxy’s Edge for a taste that’s out of this world!” I may decline, correct?

Reply
Matt Roseboom October 25, 2021 - 8:17 pm

Correct.

Reply
Vinnie October 26, 2021 - 11:37 am

As a suggestion I would like to see an article about the changes coming to the DAS system
I understand a new registration process is now required and we can make ride selections prior to arriving in park and no longer have to physically visit the attraction to acquire a DAS reservation
Any information and tips about the new DAS system would be helpful
Thanks

Reply
Tom November 12, 2021 - 12:05 pm

It’s too bad it has come to this. Disney used to be a nice family experience now it has turned into an extension of the rat race business day if you need to fly through the experience. We used to go every two years and if we missed something we got it the next time. Now the feeling is people will pay any price to get it over with once. I feel very sorry for them and I’m sure Walt would too.

Reply

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